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February Rankings and Reports: 2019 NHL Draft
With the Junior seasons not just in Canada but throughout the world gearing up for the stretch drive and a number of international tournaments (Ivan Hlinka, Five Nations, Four Nations, Subway Super Series, World Juniors) in the books, we have gotten a decent overview of what some of the biggest prospects for the draft are doing this year. This is an up-to-date look and ranking of these prospects. That said, there is still plenty of work to be done and many important games to be played including the junior league playoffs, European playoffs, and of course the Under-18 World Championships. While the rankings still have some fluidity, a pecking order is also starting to define itself. For now, this is what we have, we hope you enjoy the early preview and be sure to be ready in late March as we roll out our full player-by-player draft preview.
26.) Nolan Foote, Left Wing, Kelowna Rockets, 6’3″ 187 lbs
Foote has been on a goal scoring roll this year, putting up more than double the goals of last season. The Rockets power forward has 28 goals and 54 points in 49 games this year. Unlike his brother, Cal Foote, and his father, Adam Foote, Nolan Foote is a forward. He has very good size and plays a game that is a blend of skill and power. Foote has good stickhandling and puck protection ability.
Foote has an excellent wrist shot and a very quick release. When teammates have the puck, he finds open areas to get that shot off. When the other team has the puck, he is quick to get in on the forecheck, causing pressure and creating turnovers. Foote also is a good playmaker with puck protection and passing skills. Foote is willing to work in the dirty areas of the ice. He gets to the front of the net and uses his size to create havoc. He also battles well on the forecheck, as well as in his own end of the ice. He could stand to improve his skating over the next several years, however. He particularly needs work on his first step and early strides.
27.) Jakob Pelletier, Left Wing, Moncton Wildcats, 5’9″ 161 lbs
The third overall pick in the 2017 QMJHL Draft, Pelletier is another undersized playmaker with outstanding speed. His speed allows him to take a defender wide and cut to the net. Once he gets a step on his man, he can drop his shoulder and cut to the net. Pelletier has the hands to finish in tight. However, he is more of a playmaker than a goal scorer. Pelletier has excellent hockey IQ. He knows where his teammates are and is able to thread passes through tight areas. He has the patience to wait for a linemate to get open and in a good scoring position.
Last season, Pelletier put up 61 points in 60 games as a QMJHL rookie. This year, he’s taken his game up another notch with 33 goals and 77 points in 53 games. Pelletier picked up two points in four games this summer, helping Team Canada to the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup gold medal.
28.) Ville Heinola, Left Defence, Lukko, 5’11” 176 lbs
Heinola has quickly advanced this season, playing in Finland’s top men’s league where he has nine points in 26 games. He also played on the World Junior squad, winning a gold medal and putting up two points in six games. Heinola has very good mobility. He has excellent agility, strong crossovers, and very good pivots. This skating ability allows Heinola to get around the ice effectively. His acceleration and speed are good but not great. He could stand to get a little quicker in his first step.
Heinola is a very smart player. He reads the play well in both ends of the ice. Defensively he cuts down passing lanes and creates turnovers. Offensively, he starts the transition game with a good first pass. He also has the vision and poise with the puck to quarterback things from the point. Heinola uses his agility to walk the line and open up shooting lanes. He has a good slap shot and a good wrist shot. Heinola understands how to get them on the net and keeps his shot low to encourage deflections and rebounds.
29.) Samuel Poulin, Left Wing, Sherbrooke Phoenix, 6’1″ 207 lbs
The second overall pick in the 2017 QMJHL draft is the son of Patrick Poulin. Already coming in at 6-foot-1 and 207 pounds, Poulin plays with power. He is willing to drive the net with the puck, and forecheck hard without. Poulin also shows some skills, with soft hands, good skating ability and a powerful shot. His shot features a quick and deceptive release, which allows him to fool goaltenders from outside the face-off circle.
Playing on the wing, he also has the vision and passing skills to be a playmaker. Poulin has good hockey IQ, anticipating the movements of his teammates and getting them the puck in good spaces. He cycles well and is particularly effective in the give-and-go type plays. Poulin put up 16 goals and 45 points in 55 games as QMJHL rookie last year. This season he has 23 goals and 57 points in 54 games. He was also part of Team Canada’s Hlinka-Gretzky winning team.
30.) Anttoni Honka, Right Defence, JYP, SM Liiga, 5’10” 170 lbs
The younger brother of Dallas Stars defenseman Julius Honka, Anttoni Honka is already playing against men in the SM Liiga. He has put up six points in 18 games this year. He’s also spent time in the second division (Mestis), with six points in 10 games. He was part of Finland’s gold medal winning team at the World Juniors, but didn’t put up any points in six games. Last year, he had a very successful IIHF U-18 World Championship where he put up five points in seven games and also helped Finland to a gold medal.
Honka makes up for his lack of size with his outstanding skating ability. He also has good stickhandling ability and can carry the puck out of danger as well as creating offence in the neutral and offensive zones. Honka shows good passing skills. He can start the transition game by head-manning the puck. He is also able to make the long breakaway pass. Honka can also quarterback the play from the point on the power-play. Honka does a decent enough job in the defensive end of the ice but most continue to improve moving forward.
31.) Tobias Bjornfot, Left Defence, Djurgardens, 6’0″ 187 lbs
Bjornfot was the Swedish captain at the Hlinka-Gretzky tournament, helping the team to a silver medal. He was also part of the bronze medal winning Swedish team at the 2018 IIHF U-18s. Bjornfot is another strong two-way defender, whose game is based on strong skating ability. He has very good speed in both directions, as well as the pivots, agility and edgework to play a two-way game. He has a strong lower-body which helps Bjornfot win battles along the boards and in front of the net. Bjornfot defends well against the rush and is very well positioned and disciplined in his own end.
In the offensive end, Bjornfot has a good wrist shot. He sneaks in from the point to get it off closer to the net. However, his slapshot could use some work. Bjornfot makes good passes to start the rush and transition game and is not afraid to rush the puck up the ice himself or join in as a trailer. He has some creativity on the point, but this is an area he can continue to work on.
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